Before I go all out with planting acre upon acre of food forest, I'm going to take some other steps first:
-Ask people/observe nature around us to find out what plants are growing well in the area, which will help to better determine what similar crops will thrive here
-Figure out what our farm owner/members like, and don't like to eat
-Figure out what will sell by contacting stores, restaurants, distributors. Looking at what is and isn't being offered at farmers markets,
-Coming up with a planting plan and associated costs. Sourcing free plants and seeds
-Cover cropping/mulching/rock and log distribution on the areas slated for future forest gardens
-Planting sun trap style windbreaks every 200'
-Planting a small amount of each type of forest garden plant and giving them a year or two to see if they work. Unless I'm pretty sure that they'll work out. EG. I know cherry, apple, currants, gooseberries, plums, mulberries, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry, globe artichoke, and many varieties of vegetables will work well here
-Once a couple years go by I'll start planting all planned varieties in a big way. I realize there will still probably be losses, and that I've lost a couple years but I think its worth taking the steps and time rather than trying the shotgun approach.
I didn't imagine that most people have a lot of gulls hanging around their house. My thinking was that you take the carrots with you when you go to an amusement park, or your next dump run. Wherever they tend to congregate to eat toxic crap anyhow.
While digging up our potatoes this year we found vole holes and trails. We plant our potatoes above ground in hay so its kind of a given that voles will come too. Surprisingly I've only had minor losses caused by them. Slugs however took a large portion of our potato crop. I think its mostly my fault for leaving them in the ground a bit too long and not putting out slug traps or hand picking.
Has anyone tried making a rooting hormone liquid using willow stems and boiled water? Supposedly it works better than commercial rooting powders & gels. I tried it once but left the liquid too long and it went moldy.
marina phillips wrote: I think one of the reasons Jacke warns against the "pea soup" thing is that if you plant similar guilds everywhere, you can't possibly be paying attention to the microclimates and subtle site differences between different areas, especially on a large parcel.
on page 105 of Volume One of Jacke's book there is an illustration showing the difference between lumpy and split pea soup plantings. In the caption he says "We want both high diversity of foliage height and low evenness of texture (lumpy), not high foliage height diversity and high evenness (pea soup). Such structural diversity appears to enhance bird and insect diversity regardless of plant species composition.”
That last sentence was what spurred me to seriously consider ‘naturalized’ planting arrangements to be more important than I had previously thought.
marina phillips wrote: I think we should strive to design our food forests to be as appropriate as possible for their specific location.
I agree. It is the structure and planting pattern within these locations that I’m trying to figure out how to balance.
marina phillips wrote: He also warns against "random" guilds (which is not what I think Travis meant when he used the word, but I'll talk about it anyway), because the major holy grail of forest gardening is to create mutually beneficial polycultures. Randomly throwing things together might be interesting, but it is probably not going to be as productive as carefully thought out guilds of things we hope will benefit one other by growing near one other.
He does warn against random guilds but IMO he also says that the structure/planting pattern of a guild is more important than what makes up the guild, with the exception of allelopathic plants. I forget what page its on but much like the long quote in my previous post above, Jacke sits a study of regenerated rainforest plots, and says that they found better resiliency in plantings that had varied plant structure no matter what the species chosen. (eg. all forest garden layers represented)
marina phillips wrote: Maybe a way to avoid the soup texture is to have five or so guilds that are spaced further or closer together? I like the ideas of significant openings, gaps, meadows, and outdoor rooms.
Do you mean tree based guilds, and taking say, a whole bunch of pear trees guilds and varying the distances between each, sometimes dramatically?
marina phillips wrote: Here's my two cents on pick your own commercial food forests: If you choose species that ripen at different times of the year, it will be really obvious what to pick, because there will be fruits on somethings and not on anything else. I'd be wary about what is planted underfoot - needs to be sturdy. Customers who are looking for berries would probably tend to not watch where they are walking.
I’m glad to hear you say this, because it’s crossed my mind too but I thought it too obvious and easy to be a real solution. As for worrying about plants getting stepped on…I think this can be mitigated by signage (eg. Keep to the path) and making paths obvious compared to beds. This could be done by having clover or woodchip paths (even leading right up under the fruit trees) or by lining beds with rocks.
marina phillips wrote: I agree with Cloudpiler, it's not any more difficult to harvest things in a naturalistic planting pattern, and it's definitely more fun. I like the idea that in a food forest, harvesting domesticated species could have the feel of wildcrafting. It's safe and easy food gathering for people who might not go out to the real woods and do it.
I don’t see it being any more difficult but I could see a lot more time being eaten up by traveling between guilds. If you’re doing largescale and/or long haul harvesting (using an ATV, truck, or tractor) you could have a lot more idling, or stop/starting, or traveling with an armload of produce for longer distances to centralized locations.
Ed wrote: A very important point is brought up. How do you survive while you establish your forest garden on a scale that can then support you and your family...
We make a living selling greens and herbs to restaurants. It pays for the farm and a little bit more.
I think the answer is right there in the second part of your post that I quoted above. To establish some type of short term income while you research and put your forest garden (or whatever you want to call it) together.
This may take more time but unless someone is able to take out a huge loan or has access to a massive amount of free plants and seeds, I see it as the only viable solution. In my mind this can be done by growing shor term yielding fruits, herbs and vegetables, (and maybe mushrooms) in the beds which will one day be full blown forest gardens. Plant the trees vines and bushes as you can come by them, and as the woody plants start to come into full production the short term crops can be scaled back.
One thing I've just read from Jacke's 'Edible Forest Gardens' which illustrate why one should aim to avoid split pea soup and go for lumpy texture instead:
"...Researchers analyzed insect populations in vineyards with varying plant diversity in the ground layer. They found that as botanical diversity and the quantity of flowering plants increased, the diversity of insects increased overall, but not evenly within the trophic levels. While the diversity of beneficial and "indifferent" arthropods increased as botanical diversity increased, the diversity of pests remained the same, while their populations fell to lower levels. The predators were able to use the diverse resources of the plant community...to meet their diverse needs, to reduce the pest-insect populations. Many of the additional arthropods in the diverse vineyards were spiders, which were attracted not by specific plants species but by the structural features of the diversified ecosystem. More plants meant more variation in texture, height, and density, allowing more niches for these generalst predators, whether web builders or hunters. A similar story is told by research in apple orchards, where parasitism of tent caterpillar and codling moth eggs and larvae was eighteen times higher in orchards with rich floral undergrowth than those with sparse undergrowth."
We took part in a pretty high profile municipal farm tour this year which helped raise awareness about us. And our regional councillor is very supportive of our cause. When we went before council to appeal the development fee he voted in our favour and tried swaying the council. Unfortunately he's also supportive of the new Wal Mart slated to come to town...
Well we had a zoning bomb dropped on us last fall...There was one existing home on the property and we wanted to put a second one in as well. So we went through all the proper channels and permits (or so we thought) and got the second house here. THEN the city tells us that we have to pay a $3000 development fee!!! There was no mention of this beforehand, and it had only been enacted a few weeks before we put our house on the property...That was a major burn to our pocket books. We could've done so much with that money, and are just now finishing paying for it. We're not even allowed to have any more than two houses, even with this damned fee paid. Our eventual plan is to get a 16 unit tire-walled earthship built here, and change one of the existing houses into a store of some sort.
I'm in Ontario, not Quebec...and I've made 8 hugelkultur beds, seen most of his videos, and had his 'permakultur' book translated for me by one of our gracious german interns. We've also begun construction on a Holzer style cedar post above ground root cellar.
I don't own it but a friend has lent it to me for awhile. I've combed through a lot of it. Its a lot to take in but its great to have.
I'm part of an ecovillage in Ontario. We've only had our land for 14 months, we've got 100 acres, and an acre market garden which is all no-till, with fruit trees and bushes mixed in. Our plans are ambitious but we have been pretty methodical and goal oriented. Its working so far.
christhamrin wrote: everything i read says goumi go to zone 4. if not i'll be wanting a refund next spring!
Weird, I swear I read it was only hardy to zone 7. Hmmm, I just checked PFAF.org which says its hardy to zone 6. Maybe it was this that I read cuz I know I've looked up Goumi on that site. Zone 6 in the UK is probably not the same temp ranges. *Egg on face*
NM Grower wrote: Tel, the white dutch clover (with inoculant if needed) will give you plenty of nitrogen without the need for any N-fixing trees or shrubs between your fruit trees. In fact, eventually the clover will put too much N in the soil for the fruit trees. That's what happened at the ag research station near me. I don't know how they fixed that issue.
Hmm, crap. Could you post contact info for the ag station you're referring to please? I could see remedying the problem by laying a thick layer of mulch on top of the clover you want to kill. It may take a few applications.
This July we dumpstered a few flats of italian parsley, chives, and some thyme, lavender, and lots of empty pots, and pots with soil. The parsley, lavender, and chives will continue to give forever theoretically. We also got a bunch of scarecrows for free too. Talking to garden centers in mid to late june to find out if and when they throw out plants is a worthwhile endeavour.
Interns...we gave a $30 per week stipend but I've seen farms give no money, just room and board. Sure they can be a headache sometimes but overall they're invaluable if you're short on help.
I'd guess that the slope is more in the 8% range and with a couple of exception areas nowhere near 30%. In one of the more steep spots (calling it steep is a bit of a stretch) I put a swale near the top of the elevation, and then ran slightly raised beds along that contour below the swale. I have not dug out the paths yet, they are slanted with the original slope. I was thinking of carving them til they are level, though I'm not sure if this is necessary. I constructed the swale because there is a lot of erosion due to the previous farmer tilling the land and not planting it up. Hardly any grass came in, just sparse patches of wildflowers, alfalfa, and mustard. The soil is very sandy and erosion was quite obvious.
I once worked on a farm that kept pigs in a 3 line temporary electric fence system and though they did get out the odd time (due to vegetation grounding andshorting it out) it worked well for them for the most part. I'm thinking now about having a permanent 'wheel' of paddocks using the many fallen cedar rails on the farm, with each fence-line creating a spoke, much like the illustration in the Mollison Designers manual. We could rotate the piggies, and maybe the chickens if we add chicken wire along and above the rails to keep them from flying out and through.
I want to use the word. It sets us apart and shows people there's something else out there besides annual crops and tilling. I want to put up a big flag and expose people to new ways of farming, and people around here like things packaged and labelled. We're a very domesticated bunch for the most part. The movement here for out of the box natural farming (or whatever you wanna call it) is growing here but it is still in diapers.
We wer part of our regions farm tours this year and it went great! Such good response from both average citizens and conventional farmers who came through to see our budding forest garden by the house. And if we get laughed at and called freaks, I don't give a crap. I know that the direction we are taking here is a good one, even if we fall on our face with some of the experiments. I'm not actively trying to preach and convert. Just opening our farm to others to come see, and showing them in a matter of fact way.
I am constantly observing my surroundings natural and otherwise, and trying to adapt that to the farm if possible. Its funny, one of our members was asking a farmer neighbour about what grows here and what doesnt. He said don't bother with cherries, he's tried for 10 years or so with no success. We planted a cherry tree this spring and it's kicking ass. Already had cherries on it, though I picked em off at the green stage so the plant could focus on roots and leaves.
Hmmm, we tried using 'pigtail' electric fencing to put our two pot-belly pigs to work clearing some land but one of them kept trying to escape by kamikazi-ing the fence, getting stuck, and zapped repeatedly. She didn't learn her lesson and tried again. Any suggestions for low cost/low tech portable fencing solutions?
When I say "permaculture is but a whisper in these parts' I mean it in the general sense of taking organic and conventional one step further. Anyone doing farming outside the box. I use the term for convenience in this case I suppose. I'd venture to guess that 99.9% of the farmers here are doing either GMO conventional corn/wheat/soy, cattle, hay, or organic veggie market gardening. It's epidemic.
Could you elaborate what you mean when you say, 'just use swales'? Are you referring to makinging a swale only at the high elevation point on contour, and then making the beds below in whatever shape you want but not necessarily digging in paths? Or should they follow the same contour? Or am I way off?
All I do is add 2-3 inches of hay, woodchips, or tree leaves. I also leave leftover crop residue in the bed, usually not bothering to pull it out of the ground. I only add manure or compost if the bed showed signs of infertility.
I've had beds treated like this for several years which never showed no signs of deficiency. Though I am thinking of adding a fall cover crop which'll die off when winter hits.
*this is a Washington State University site. Sepp told us specifically that the project here is for demonstration purposes only and that he would never terrace this particular hill. I agreed and we talked hog language the rest of the day.
Why wouldn't he normally terrace that site? Did he stay what he'd do instead?
Deston Lee wrote:
Aside from the way terraces really work, a few things that I gleaned in the works was that rather than planting trees in lines on terraces that they should be staggered to create a wandering path - this in effect creates micro climates even on a uniform hillside if one clumps trees of similar height - it creates, in time, a patchwork of shades and sunspots inside the food forest. Jacke also writes about this in the section of the EFG which discusses variable gap sizes- don't have the book in front of me. so Travis, yes, it sounds like you have the same idea.
You're saying that the that the trees should be staggered to create a wandering path? I don't follow, I thought the path was determined by the contour, not where the tree is planted.
Deston Lee wrote:
get crazy with it. plant anything remotely possible. Get starts from any neighbourhood specimens that are doing well. I've got an 80+ year old apple orchard about 2 miles from me. Im taking scions and roots/shoots like a madman. those that thrive will keep you and yours alive.
While I do plan to do some experimentation with pushing the zone boundaries, I'm on such a tight budget that I need somewhat of a safe bet for anything beyond home scale , and I'm not really plugged into the farming scene here. Permaculture is but a whisper in these parts and its usually whispered by people without land or much of a garden beyond a community garden plot. I'm trying to branch out and find those hiding in the woodwork. There's a guy growing apricots, hardy table grapes, and hardy kiwi among other things just south of me, and a lady with a peach tree nearby. Might sound like nothing to those in warmer zones but as far as I know, these are plants that are ushing the zone boundaries here in central ontario.
Deston Lee wrote: sounds like you have some slope- one last thought - and this is part of Sepp's success on slopes- ever notice how cane berries cling to slopes in a broad range from upright to horizontal? plant your perennial canes in at 15-45-75 degrees from horizontal (equal distribution), they will decide which way to go individually, and fill the upper and lower extent of the sweep making harvest possible from both sides. birds get the middle.
There’s actually not much slope here that could be described as anything beyond gradual. Thanks for the tip either way
I've been thinking about this myself. I keep hearing from others about 'value added' products. I've got access to about a half acre of horseradish, and have thought about partnering with a chef to make and sell a sauce.
Things you can make and sell at farmers markets in the off season might help people look beyond the 'weird and wild' aspect, and get them buying it, due to a lack of generally available local produce in winter. I've recently heard of a nearby farm having success freezing lambs quarters and selling that like hotcakes in the winter. I'm wondering about various root crops that could be cut up into french fries, seasoned (with forest garden herbs) and then packaged and frozen for winter sale. Failing that, you could dry some veggies and make chips. I've seen kale chips in a local healthfood store selling for a crazy price. Which I knw doesn't necessarily equate to craz sales but its an example of an uncommon dried food.
Pickling is also viable I think. If you need a health certified kitchen, asking churches or chefs to rent out theirs is an option.
grasping at straws here maybe but what about hugelkulture with no trench dug? Pile the wood on top of existing ground, and then cover with leaves/hay/straw, and/or manure, and then soil from the paths (or some other source) on top of that. You could get away with not using much soil if you had enough manure sourced.
That got me thinking, would starting up a worm compost facility somewhere on the property be feasible? I've seen it done in hoop houses, so you could double it as a food producing greenhouse.
What I'm kinda envisioning is patches within rows, if that makes sense. So I'd have these paths running on contour, with 4-6 foot wide beds between for the trees etc. So picture this winding grid of beds n paths an acre or two wide, with suntrap shaped windbreak every 200 feet. Within this I'm thinking of a bit of a shotgun blast pattern, where trees of te same cultivar type are rarely planted one or two trees apart. The herbaceous layer I'm less concerned with but would like to have in similar pattern
My only extensive experience with fruit trees is pruning old overgrown apple trees. My young fruit trees are only 3 years old and I'm planning on only pruning dead wood, water sprouts (branches tht grow straight up) or branches that rub up against others. This is pretty much how I go about pruning the old ones...
I've been thinking about the periodic flooding... What about growing crops that could fair better in that situation. Would a fukuoka rice system work? (wild or otherwise). I think he only floods his rice for a short time each year instead of most of the season like conventional farmers do. What about cranberry? elderberry entioned, and it likes wet feet. That could be processed into jam or wine, either on farm or sold to a processor.
Not sure the rise level of the flood but what about some massive hugelkultur beds; four to six feet high? You could orient them so that they are parallel with the general direction of the flood so that they flow through. This could also make use of some of the forest thinnings. The microclimate effect of these raised hugelbeets with flood waters may allow you to grow crops that normally won't grow in that climate. Unless your competitors pull similar tricks, they won't be able to flood the market with the same crop.
If thats not feasible, how about building some makeshift structures that could grow crops on a green roof? There are loopholes in many building codes such as not having walls, making them under 109 square feet (yet connecting each building via open air roof? Strawberries make a worthy crop in these systems I hear.
What about ducks? they'd be more likely to survive flooding, and can fetch a high price if you grow the right kind and get set up with a swanky banquet all or country club. The ducks might be able to be incorporated into the no-till pumpkin or rice system as weeders/fertilizers
I remember someone on Permies saying they sold produce via an email list. Essentially my impression of this is; they have an list of customers, anbd every week the farmer sends an email listing of what produce is available for the following week, and then a delivery or drop off, or on farm pickup is done.
Here at Greenshire we did a 22 member CSA, and for the most part it went well, especially since it was our first growing season. However, individually portioning and filling each share was a real time consuming pain in the ass sometimes. Also, there were some weeks where we couldn't eat some of the produce ourselves, because if we did we'd be short-changing some of our customers.
SO... I'm trying to think of how to tweak the model, to avoid those issues. So, as mentioned above, I've been mulling over the email list idea. I'm thinking that people can buy 'credit' at any time in the season but
I see the benefits of the email list over a standard CSA being: -If we want to take a week off, we have that option (eg. Vacation, emergency, or lack of harvestable produce) -We can start earlier in the year than the usual June date (eg. April/may for Fiddleheads, leeks) and then not deliver again until crops are ready -We still get at least some up front money as with a CSA, (assuming people are willing to pay into the credit system) -People don’t get a bunch of stuff they don’t want - We don’t have to portion out every item (some yes, but not all) -If we don’t have enough tomatoes for everyone we can at least accommodate some on a first come first serve basis. In this way - We can make sure we have some of each item available for the farm to enjoy.
The email list model sounds good on paper but doesn't everything... Problems I could see are: -people not checking their emails in time, some don’t even have email -nobody liking what we have on certain weeks and no orders come in, or some but not enough to make it worth our while, - depending on how many members we have, that could be a crapload of emails to receive and process -people changing their mind about their order when they get to the drop off -customers might not have a good enough idea of what the portions will look like and might be unpleasantly surprised when they pick up (eg. An ounce of mint) -We’d have to station someone from the farm at the drop off for the duration of the drop off period,
Some possible solutions; -In the email we could put a description of what each portion size equates to, maybe even pictures. Also, we could put taste descriptions and recipe ideas which might help sell the lesser known items. -If we don’t get enough orders one week, we could let customers know, and maybe some could come to the farm for pickup, or wait another week -We could make people sign a form which deals with changing of minds. (eg. You have a certain amount of time to back out of or change the order but after that you’re held to it.
Any opinions on Mike Oehler's greenhouse book? I've read through a lot of it and as far as greenhouses go, it seems like a pretty good option in terms of a low carbon footprint. Especially if you could source some of the materials second hand. We're looking at building one using some reclaimed wood from an old boat storage, and gigantic windows from a government building.
If you'd be choosing one or the other, and your living in North America, I'd suggest buying either Gaia's Garden or David Jacke's Edible Forest Gardens over Mollisons Designers Manual. All of them are great IMO but since Mollison is covering pretty much the entire range of what permaculture is, and also covers many different climates, it might not be as focused on actual gardening techniques as you might like. If you want to get REALLY in depth and focus on forest gardening, Jacke's books are well worth it I say. If you want a more generalized book (which still covers forest gardening well) then go for Gaia's Garden.
Sounds like there could be a lot of erosion problems with this scenario, so I'd suggest aiming for deep rooted plants, and getting as much vegetation in the ground as possible to hold the soil in place. I think that mulch alone won't do the trick. A heavy rain will likely work itself through and wash the soil downhill.
Not sure exactly how steep you're talking about so you may need to peg the cardboard down but in my experience (which is only on flat land) cardboard doesn't need to be pegged if you put enough mulch on and get it wet if possible. Maybe do a testing of a few pieces without pegs, and leave it for a few days to see if they stay in place.
Why is it that you don't want it to go natural?
I'm wondering, if you have the time to wait, you could save yourself the money on some of the straw cost by letting the existing vegetation grow, and hacking that back with a weedwhacker, raking it, and using that instead. Probably not feasible but just thought I'd put that out there.
Have you thought of swales and/or terraces? Not sure if you know, but most carpet has a lot of toxic chemicals, which will leach into the soil via rain.
Here's a run-through with pictures of how we made our salad beds. They worked out great and we didn't have to do any de-grassing. Only had to weed the bed about 3 times in the whole growing season, and even then it was a very small amount of unwanted plants.
Joel; no problemo. Usually burdock is found in large numbers where it grows, so there isn't a need to get so much of each root. And yeah, I feel good about leaving some of the root intact. That way I'm not being a total thief.
Feral; I've harvested burdock from a sheet mulch-raised bed in a sandy soil and it came out without a shovel! Couldn't believe it...